My Path into Buddhism, Chapter 1

The year 2020 was not an easy one for many. Initially, 2020 was the year I had planned to execute a sort of end-to-end life improvement plan, but I wouldn’t imagine how much more challenging it was going to get. By contrast, the hardship gave me a chance to deepen into Buddhism, which I had wanted to do for some time. Therefore, this post will describe the snapshot of what today is the most impactful for me. I called this post “Chapter 1” because understanding evolves and grows; maybe in the future, I might say something more profound or even contradictory in case I got things wrong this time.

In 2020 I read a few books about Buddhism. Among them are “Buddhism For Beginners,” “The Art of Happiness,” and “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching.” Not surprisingly, the latter book was the most impactful as Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most impactful leaders in Buddhism worldwide. I was lucky enough that a beautiful person that crossed my path took me to a meditation day in a place near San Diego that followed the plum village tradition and introduced me to Thich Nhat Hanh.

One of the many Buddha Stupas that are in Kathmandu, this one is the Monkey Temple

As I understand it, Buddhism is nothing but a way of life. I don’t see it as a religion. So I will treat it as such during the description of what’s most impactful for me.

“The Buddha taught many concentration practices. To practice the Concentration on Impermanence, every time you look at your beloved, see him as impermanent, and do your best to make him happy today.”

Thich Nhat Hanh. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

I see impermanence as something beautiful and poetic. My mind simplifies the concept to “nothing is forever” so, why not enjoy the present while it lasts? The year 2020 showed me that in one moment, everything I wanted to do but didn’t suddenly wasn’t possible anymore. It set me on the path of being present and observant of what surrounds me, as well as what happens inside me at the same time.

“The Buddha said that in the depth of our store consciousness, alayavijñana, there are all kinds of positive and negative seeds — seeds of anger, delusion, and fear, and seeds of understanding, compassion, and forgiveness.”

Thich Nhat Hanh. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

Here is a beautiful and empowering thought. We are capable of good and evil. We need to choose what to do at a particular moment. If we combine that with impermanence, it gives the relief from “being.” I’m saying that suddenly I don’t have to feel that I’m a good or bad person, but instead, I have done good and bad things in the past, and I can choose what to do now and in the future.

“The question is whether you want to liberate yourself. If you do, practice the Noble Eightfold Path. Wherever the Noble Eightfold Path is practiced, joy, peace, and insight are there.”

Thich Nhat Hanh. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

The final thing I wanted to discuss today is the noble eightfold path. It consists of, you guessed it, eight steps: Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. This path is, I believe, the greatest teaching of the Buddha.

Going through the description of each step made me suspect how well the Buddha understood human nature. I made an instant connection with the biases I learned throughout Daniel Kahneman’s book. Human minds have these biases and heuristics because of having incomplete information, so it’s essential to gather as much information as possible and then form the right point of view to say and do the right thing finally. Combining this with watering good seeds inside you, profoundly meditating about everything, and being present in what you do closes the circle.

The noble eightfold path is, as the name correctly states, a path. It’s something I’m trying to practice every day and get better at, but there are still ways to go both for practice and understanding. It’s a continual evolution.

With this, I conclude this post. I hope it inspired you to dive into this philosophy and maybe discover something new. Please comment your experience in the section below.

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